Employee Engagement: Leader’s Perspective 

Under the leadership of Tim Bodenham, Founder and Managing Director, Ian Pain, Director, and a talented senior management team, the specialist student marketing agency BAM has placed employee engagement at the heart of its business. 

A crippling turnover of staff was the trigger several years ago for Tim to take a long hard look at his business and embark on the LEAD™ programme. Exit surveys revealed that people were leaving because they were unhappy and unfulfilled. 

Ian can attest to this from personal experience. “I left BAM partly because I didn’t have a clear sense of what was expected of me and the culture was one which didn’t fully support and value its team members, he recalls. 

“I came back to a different organisation. The biggest change was the senior management team (SMT) that Tim had created. They were led by Tim and united, wanting everyone to be treated as individuals and to feel fully supported. 

Tim radically re-thought his approach to the business, realising that the shadow he cast was a major element of the problem – not an ‘unlucky’ run of recruiting the ‘wrong’ people. He introduced clear and open communication systems as a fundamental cornerstone of BAM, and went about this relentlessly.  

Monday morning SMT ‘huddles’, a monthly tactical SMT meeting and quarterly strategic sessions, are echoed elsewhere in the organisation with weekly team huddles around a live electronic dashboard showing performance on sales and targets. One-to-one meetings were held fortnightly by line managers at first, now monthly. 

“When we’ve had members of the LEAD™ cohort visiting on Shadow and Exchange placements, they’ve been surprised by how much we tell people and how often,” says Ian. “But after four or five years it’s now embedded in our DNA. 

“There’s fun stuff too, such as drinks on a Friday in the BAM Bar, free breakfasts, BAMiversary cakes celebrating each year of service, but these are really just symbols and ‘nice to have’ additions.  

“It’s clear and open communication and the structures and systems that support that which really make the difference. People can tell when it’s a genuine commitment from senior leadership, and not just a tick in the box. 

BAM conducts a quarterly engagement survey benchmarking its progress. Scores have moved from 52.74% a few years ago, to 94.4% in its most recent survey in December. Three out of the four surveys each year are from named individuals, only the fourth being anonymous as a balance and check. 

“Named surveys allow us to pick up on potential issues within departments – usually it’s just a small anomaly and people appreciate that we can try and unpick the problem with them. We see very little variance between the named and anonymous surveys. 

“We set a goal of becoming recognised nationally in the Great Place to Work® awards and achieved that in 2014, which was fantastic. We had a really happy workforce, but changes in the market and a new strategy meant that our sales pipeline dropped and we realised that we had to achieve an important balance. Performance was what mattered, not just happiness. 

“Because we had an engaged team we could lay the cards on the table and ask them to dig in. It worked; people responded with enormous dedication and loyalty. 

“Both performance and engagement take great effort and energy from the management team. We’re now more balanced, and the business is going from strength to strength.” 

This article first appeared in the QuoLux™ Leading magazine, Issue 1, April 2017.

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